by A.P. Joye
“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you she lived here,” he says to reassure me. She’s a paying tenant, he insists and explains she’s all they could find.
She’s also my ex-best-friend—let’s just say her choice, not mine. Don’t worry: I’m better for it, or at least that’s what I’ve been telling myself for the last two years; I don’t even know if it’s been two years. That day is seared into my head and I still can’t remember how long ago it was. I suppose it was two years ago because I’m now huddled into a corner, sobbing off-and-on with some hyperventilating thrown into the mix and I’m definitely over it.
She can’t see me on the other side of his bed reduced to a pile of clattering bones. Stop, Alyssa. He’s talking, not that it matters.
I wake up. I inhale and exhale to the relief of waking up from a dream I didn’t know was a dream. I get up from bed and figure a shower should set the day right. Wait, someone’s in the shower.
Why is she here?
She’s staying over at her boyfriend’s place. I guess I should be glad she doesn’t live here like last time. I compose myself because I can’t let her see the inner mess and let on that she destroyed me by sending me a Snapchat message saying I wasn’t a good enough friend over the summer. She gets out of the shower and it’s my time to shine.
“Oh, hey, Abby,” she says awkwardly. She dabs her hair dry and stops near the door to the bedroom.
“Don’t worry about it.” I smile and wave my hand like I’m swatting a fly. Then, I turn away as fast as I can to avoid giving myself away.
I wake up. But, this time, it’s for real. Except I’m not awake. I’m still swimming in my dreams the same way they were drowning me in the moment; they allowed me to believe I was free before my brain actually released me, only to saturate my thoughts for the rest of the day.
A real-life version of inception. There’s a bit of irony there because research suggests dreams are the brain’s way of preparing us for life. So, not only did my brain think it should prepare me for possibly running into my ex-best friend once but twice.
Anxiety feels a lot like dreaming.
While I might be obsessed with my ex-best-friend, it’s not because she’s special. I obsess over everything; one time my dad even, ever so fondly, told me I obsess over obsessing. It could be a midterm I have the next morning or the fact that I forgot to tag one of my current best friends in a post on my story.
Kitchen voices bounce around the dark room. I tell myself to close the door, then I watch myself get up and close the door. Suddenly, I’m locked up in a black box; I can still hear muffled voices and, of course, my brain is busy trying to decode every word against my better judgment.
I open my eyes and see the door ajar still. I can’t close it; I stay awake because it’s easier than negotiating with loneliness. Instead, the voices keep me awake. I even try box breathing, you know, five seconds in through the nose, five-second hold, five seconds out through the mouth, and (you guessed it!) five seconds hold. It’s a bit difficult for me to hold my breath with my lungs completely emptied, so, sometimes, my mind gives up and my lungs give out, forcing me to inhale before my five seconds is up. Thus, let the obsession commence.
When I encounter a problem I can’t solve, I attempt to avoid it. I tell myself to get distracted and the answer will come when I don’t expect it. And, when I say I tell myself, it’s to demonstrate this is never, in fact, what happens.
Instead, I revert to obsession. I try to ignore the looming hole in my mind and yet it’s only when I try to sleep that my mind finally decides to start opening doors. The answer is written in my mind’s eye, but it’s already late and I have an early morning. I get up from beneath my plush comforter and scribble a note to my morning self because I can’t forget the answer to my obsession.
I’ve discovered I’m not obsessed with any particular ex-person in my life, nor am I obsessed with any particular post I did or did not write according to social norms. I am obsessed with my obsessive thoughts. I’m fascinated by what goes on in my mind and, more importantly, that I had no clue what that is; I’m fascinated by the tricks my thoughts perform outside of my control because nothing is more intimate than my thoughts. So, what do I do when I realize I can’t trust them? What do I do when I’ve grown up believing this is how minds are supposed to work?
You obsess over your anxiety.
A.P. Joye, although born on the east coast, has spent the majority of her life in Southern California. When she isn’t brainstorming, writing, and collaborating with fellow writers, A. P. Joye spends time with friends and family, reads, and runs. She currently attends San Diego State University where she is pursuing her MFA in Creative Writing. You can keep up with her latest work at apjoye.com.